Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford will enter his sixth season with the program in 2022 and almost unbelievably, he will still be collecting a first in his time in college.
This fall will mark the first time Clifford has had the same offensive coordinator in consecutive seasons as Mike Yurcich is back for his second year as play caller for Penn State Football.
The super-senior quarterback had Ricky Rahne as his OC in 2019 before he left to take the head coaching job at Old Dominion and then in 2020 had Kirk Ciarrocca who on the surface looked like a great hire, but was a short lived stint after a very disappointing season. He looked like a different quarterback through the first four games of the season last year under Yurcich, until the rib injury suffered at Iowa.
Before coming to Happy Valley, Yurcich served as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2013 – 2018, and in that time he had one quarterback in which he worked with for multiple years and if history was to repeat itself for the Nittany Lions, it tells us that Sean Clifford should take big strides in 2022.
How Mike Yurcich’s previous quarterbacks fared in their second season in his scheme
Mason Rudolph broke onto the scene in 2015 with the Cowboys and had a very good season.
Rudolph came back as the starter in 2016 and became one of the elite signal callers in the entire country. We broke down the numbers below:
2015: 264/424 passing, 3,770 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 62.3 completion %, 8.9 yards per completion
2016: 284/448 passing, 4,091 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 63.4 completion %, 9.1 yards per completion
It’s evident based on the numbers that Rudolph took a big step in year two under Yurcich.
More passing yards, less turnovers, and a more efficient passer who was pushing the ball down the field more often, averaging over nine yards per completion.
Last season, Clifford took strides over his brutal 2020 season, and although it is hard to compare the two years statistically because it was a Covid shortened year and he was benched for a game, he was a significantly better passer.
Clifford threw for 3,107 yards with 21 touchdowns to only eight interceptions last fall, but his completion percentage was still a mere 61% while only averaging 7.3 yards per completion.
If Clifford can bring up that completion percentage while pushing the ball down the field more consistently, that can be the difference in him being just a game manager and taking that step to a quarterback who can win the Lions games in 2022.
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